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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In wake of conservatorship hearing, some clarity on Woodhouse absence    

Is there a way to avoid a conservatorship?

Mendocino County has been in a bit of chaos after Third District Supervisor Tom Woodhouse was placed in conservatorship in November. Woodhouse has apparently been regularly missing board meetings and was arrested on October 28, 2016 on domestic violence charges. While Woodhouse’s wife was named as conservator, there has reportedly been no communications as to when Woodhouse would return or how they intended to proceed with his board seat.

According to the Government Code, if a supervisor does not perform his or her job for a period of three months, that supervisor will lose his or her position on the board. There is an exception for those incapacitated due to a medical condition. Woodhouse is under medical treatment, so it is likely that his seat on the board is not in jeopardy.

As conservator, Carolyn Woodhouse was given the right to resign on Supervisor Woodhouse’s behalf and also to engage in legal actions on his behalf, including legal proceedings related to his employment.

While most conservatorships do not affect the general public so directly, they do impact the lives of those around the individual and any business dealings that the individual may be involved in. 

What is a conservatorship?

In a nutshell, a court can determine that an individual is impaired and cannot care for his or her own welfare and finances and then appoint someone else, a conservator, to manage that individual’s day-to-day activities. The conservatorship can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances.  The person appointed as the conservator can be a family, friend or private professional who is qualified to look after the care and finances of the conservatee.

Conservatorship Pros and Cons

While in theory, appointing a conservator to manage the health and financial needs of an individual who is unable to do so on their own is a truly helpful thing to do, there are some serious downsides to consider.

  1. Expense – conservatorships usually require the assistance of an attorney, which can be expenses.
  2. Lack of Privacy – conservatorships are a matter of public record so anyone can find out that you have been declared incapacitated.
  3. Paperwork and reports – conservators must provide detailed paperwork and periodic reports on the affairs of the conservatee.
  4. Posting Bond – the conservator must post a bond as an insurance policy for the estate.

Are there ways around conservatorships?

Yes! With planning and the expert advice of counsel, conservatorships may be avoided. Mechanisms for avoiding conservatorships include:

  • Appointing Durable Power of Attorney
  • Appointing a Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Creating an Advance Health Care Directive

These three documents, if prepared in advance, may act in concert to provide you and your loved ones with the discreet assistance that you need if you become incapacitated.

Have questions about conservatorships?

Making a plan to avoid conservatorship can save time, money and embarrassment. Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning has helped hundreds of clients and their families develop estate plans that address their personal family needs. Call today at 925-224-1185 to schedule a consultation.

 


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